Mara and Dann, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


A visionary novel from Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

It is sooner than you might think. And the Earth's climate is much changed - it's colder than ever before in the north, and unbearably dry and hot in the south.

Mara, who is seven, and her four-year-old brother Dann find themselves somewhere very strange, not home ...They are taken in by a kindly, grandmotherly woman, but this new life is hard: hunger, dirt, thirst and danger are the children's constant companions.

Drought and fire carry off their adoptive home and force them to set off northward into the unknown, to experience a series of adventures that bring them to an altogether altered world, where they can start to learn and build anew.

Doris Lessing has written a compelling, troubling and entertaining novel that, through the remarkable odyssey of a brother and sister living in the imagined future, manages to tell us a great deal about the present we perceive only dimly and scarcely know how to value.


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Some time in the future, perhaps 50 years or a thousand years away, two very young children set off on a journey north across Ifrik (Africa), one of two continents in the world not to be totally icebound. This seems even more topical now than when the novel was first published, given concerns about global warming.The journey will take them years, and they face all the trials of growing up along the way, as well as the problems of drought, getting food, separation, illness, drug addiction, war, love and sex and others.Mara is just 7 at the start of the novel, but already she is taking on a caring and protecting role for her 4 year old brother. She grows into a courageous and intelligent teenager and young woman. Dann is more ambiguous – Mara loves him but sometimes he is not very likeable, and can she rescue him from some of the situations he gets into? By the time she wrote this, Lessing had moved away from feminism but I was very interested in her portrayal of women's role in society and all the related issues through Mara.Along the way they encounter lots of societies at various stages of development, some seem better than others, but there is always a threat of conflict and war.Mara and Dann is fascinating and thought provoking, with very memorable protagonists, and it has made me want to reread and read more of Doris Lessing’s many other writings.There is lots of material for discussion here, about the environmental and other issues explored, about the characters, the problems and dilemmas they face, and about their quest for somewhere to settle.

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